Politicians can use fear to manipulate the public

Mar 04, 2009

A new study in the American Journal of Political Science explores how and when politicians can use fear to manipulate the public into supporting policies they might otherwise oppose. Politicians' use of fear is more likely with regard to topics that are abstract and difficult for citizens (and/or the media) to observe.

Arthur Lupia and Jesse O. Menning examined how select attributes of fear affect a politician's ability to scare citizens into supporting policies that they would otherwise reject. They argue that politicians' use of fear will depend on critical aspects of mass psychology.

For example, manipulation is more likely when the public doesn't understand an issue or is unlikely to be able to overcome the fear created by politicians. By contrast, the easier it is for citizens to observe that the politician has made false statements, the less likely it is that politicians will attempt to use fear at all.

"A greater understanding of when fear can and cannot be used to scare citizens into supporting bad policies can help journalists and scholars more effectively interpret important historical events," the authors note. "It can help them think about whether, and to what extent, elite manipulation of citizen emotions contributed to initial public support for these kinds of government actions."

More information: This study is published in the American Journal of Political Science.

Source: Wiley

Explore further: New poll reveals what Americans fear most

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User comments : 19

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Ausjin
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 04, 2009
I am not alone in having thought this has been well known for as long as politics has been practiced, am I?
freethinking
2 / 5 (12) Mar 04, 2009
Global warming..... bailouts.... the economy.... health care.... social security.....

The left has nothing but fear....
mysticfree
1 / 5 (1) Mar 04, 2009
hmmm, was the study funded by taxpayers' money?
freethinking
1.6 / 5 (14) Mar 04, 2009
Oh and since most of the media are leftest, they seldom if ever report on the mis-statements and out right lies that leftist politicians say.
dirk_bruere
4.3 / 5 (6) Mar 04, 2009
I blame it on half the population being below average intelligence.
HarryStottle
2.6 / 5 (8) Mar 04, 2009
CAN????????????????????????????

as in "Bears CAN shit in the woods?"
Daft
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 04, 2009
Fear to manipulate the public, wow the author must be a genius. Seriously since 911 politicans have been using the fear of Mr Terry Wrist to erode civil liberties around the globe and the media morons keep publishing it think people want to read.
brant
3 / 5 (4) Mar 04, 2009
Oh and since most of the media are leftest, they seldom if ever report on the mis-statements and out right lies that leftist politicians say.


Ahhhh, Rupert Murdoch owns 75% of media.

I'm not left or right(stupid label) but I just want you to know the truth....

Keter
5 / 5 (5) Mar 05, 2009
"We have nothing to fear but fear itself." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Although lately, I think we have nothing to fear but our own government(s)...

Read much Machiavelli lately? All of this is old hat.
DeadCorpse
2.1 / 5 (10) Mar 05, 2009
Problem. Reaction. Solution. Create a problem to garner a specific reaction then offer a solution. The old "let a lion run loose in the streets" trick.

And yeah... It works. On both sides of the political Left-Right spectrum.

A pox on both their houses.
freethinking
1.4 / 5 (10) Mar 05, 2009
Never fear the Governmnet is here.... ask Canada, England, Russia, China, Mexico how good their civil liberties are, how free they are, how they have no fear for their security, health, wealfare, jobs, free speech, etc.... and now... good old USA
axlmayhem
5 / 5 (2) Mar 07, 2009
Wow, what a revelation. What moron didn't know the politicians did this?
KBK
1 / 5 (5) Mar 08, 2009
"We have nothing to fear but fear itself." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Although lately, I think we have nothing to fear but our own government(s)...

Read much Machiavelli lately? All of this is old hat.


Yes.

Actually..the fear manipulation tactic is as old as the first arguement by two males over the first female. It's damn old.

With regards to 'societal mass' manipulation, it was done by the money changers and the 'leaders' way back in Sumerian times, when they invented FIAT currencies...over 6,000 years ago.

KBK
2 / 5 (8) Mar 08, 2009
Never fear the Governmnet is here.... ask Canada, England, Russia, China, Mexico how good their civil liberties are, how free they are, how they have no fear for their security, health, wealfare, jobs, free speech, etc.... and now... good old USA


The deal is that the manipulation is SOoo.. good in the USA..that people falsely believe that their government is not fascist. It is so manipulative and 'in control' for so long that we get such dumkopft statements like that I have quoted.

One tiny piece of evidence?

Canada: 1 out of every 912 people are in the criminal system. (we COUNT our minors as well in that stat)

USA: one out of every 31 people ins in the criminal justice system.

In the USA... they DON'T count their minors..otherwise the number would be FAR worse. As in about one out of every 25 people would be in the criminal system. Canada would be at near one out of every 1000 people.

In the criminal system meaning: either in Jail, on parole, or on probation.

Now look at that statistic again. Even if it bothers you. It's frightening, isn't it? That is the LACK OF A SOCIAL NET--you Americans have been FOOLED INTO BELIEVING that a social net is 'commie' or something, by the moneychangers and scum who have controlled your system for so long. It has infected your lives from cradle to grave-so you can't see it for what it is. This is part of the mechanism of using fear-fear of commies, etc. 'Evil socialism'- so they manipulated the system to rape your lives and make your believe that taking care of one another is EVIL. Such utter bullshit.

The evil parts of the US government (it's individual PERSONS that are responsible, not a 'party' that is responsible-get it straight; The whole 'team' thing is a 'red herring', it's there to distract your sorry ass.) are the problem of course. Which at this advanced state of sorry affairs - means just about all of it.
ealex
5 / 5 (2) Mar 08, 2009
Heh there's actually a good documentary parallelling the US neo-con politics and the fear tactics going back to the cold war, all through to 9/11 and the rise of fundamentalist Islam & the Osama gang.

Very nice doc to watch, the full title is "The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear", 4 parts, but well worth the time.

I find it strange that I as an Eastern-European from the ex-soviet block know more and have been inquisitive enough to find out more about this stuff than the average American.

Oh and GG for the study. More pointless reasearchism.
jimbo92107
3 / 5 (1) Mar 09, 2009
News flash: Rhetoric exists.
Icester
not rated yet Mar 09, 2009
And in other research....

Water CAN be wet

The sky CAN be blue

Gravity CAN make apples fall off of tree

Tag this research in the "No sh!t, Sherlock" file.

COCO
1 / 5 (6) Mar 10, 2009
Methinks we all should have a drink and calm down - the Iraqee attack on 911 created a NEED for greater security in order for freedom to be valued. "We cannot have true peace without either preparing or waging war" - Voltaire
franjipani
not rated yet May 22, 2009
Dick Cheney without doubt, wins the gold medal for the most manipulative fear-mongering of our time. Every time the issue of the law or of human rights abuses comes up, he leaps up to remind the American public that we are all in mortal danger from %u2018terrorists%u2019.

So are we to believe that the most powerful nation the world has ever known %u2013 a country with more destructive weapons than the rest of the planet put together, and with a history of using that power to devastating effect - is in extreme danger by some radicalized, disenfranchised peasants from Asia and Africa %u2013 more dangerous than the Soviet Union during the Cold War, a country with weapons to match America%u2019s? These people are so dangerous that this country has to sacrifice the very values that it used against the British to gain independence?

Cheney%u2019s clever advantage is that the %u2018enemy%u2019 is unseen. If the public could actually see who these %u2018terrifying human beings%u2019 actually are, understand their stories, their backgrounds, who they are, what they are called, what they believe in and above all, why they hate America, then the public would see human beings with concepts and emotions like the rest of us, not some enduring monsters without faces.

But what does Cheney care? As long as he gets heard, and as long as the influence of fear works, then he has power.